Bengal Quick Takes: Projecting starters

May, 20, 2014
May 20
9:25
AM ET
In case you haven't checked a calendar lately: it's May.

Why do I bring that up? To make it clear that at this time of year no team is officially providing a depth chart ahead of training camp. No one is leaking depth-chart information to reporters because, well, there is no real depth chart information. I have to make that plain because at least one other outlet misinterpreted this depth-chart projection from Monday as a report from yours truly.

Nope, that's not an actual depth chart, folks. It's just my read (in May) on what we could see when the Bengals break things down later this summer.

We begin these Tuesday Quick Takes right there:

1. Projecting the offense. As mentioned in the link above, we're breaking down the three phases of the Bengals' game this week with looks at how the depth chart could shake out when the team takes to Paul Brown Stadium's practice fields for training camp. It bears repeating again, these are only projections, and are not actual reports of the depth chart. So, let's chat a bit about some of my positional rankings. Quarterback is pretty straightforward, as is running back, where Giovani Bernard gets the No. 1 back nod over BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Again, we know the Bengals are saying they stand behind Green-Ellis and continue to believe he's a key part of their offense, but there are reasons to believe he might not be on the opening-weekend roster. We'll see if he makes it. If he does, Bernard still likely would be viewed as the premier running back, but remember -- like last year -- the Bengals have plans to use more than one back regularly. It could even be a three-back rotation depending upon how things shake out in training camp.

2. Jones as No. 2 WR? Mohamed Sanu entered last season as the No. 2 receiver lining up opposite A.J. Green, but after Marvin Jones' breakout second season, a strong case could be made for him to be the Bengals' No. 2. He was, after all, their second-leading receiver behind Green last year, and was targeted the second-most times behind Green. On 78 targets, Jones caught 51 passes and only dropped two. Sanu and Green each dropped five passes last year. While receivers coach James Urban has pledged to make Sanu a greater part of the offense this season -- that could include running off reverses or even throwing the ball on a trick play or two -- you still have to figure Jones' recent success makes him a good option to line up opposite the Pro Bowler Green. The NFL is all about "what have you done for me lately," and Jones has some solid recent statistics under his belt. Also, in the projection is a reference to Dane Sanzenbacher likely playing slot receiver for the Bengals. He certainly won't be the only one. All the receivers will line up in the slot and on the outside with some regularity. It's just that Sanzenbacher best fits the role that went to Andrew Hawkins before his free agency departure to Cleveland.

3. O-line intrigue. There's some intrigue on the offensive line in the projections. I have Mike Pollak listed as the No. 1 center, although fourth-round draft pick Russell Bodine could certainly contend for starting time, too, this camp. And don't dismiss Trevor Robinson, either. Where the center position once looked like one the few true position uncertainties on the team, it now looks like an area of real strength, both literally and physically. Robinson competed well with former starter Kyle Cook last training camp, and now he'll be matched with a hungry rookie and Bodine, and Pollak, a player the Bengals coveted for his versatility on the line's interior. If the Bengals go with Bodine at center, it could be an extension of the Bengals possibly moving Pollak to left guard at the start of the season to make up for Clint Boling's possible absence. Boling is trying to return from an ACL tear by camp, but it's possible he won't be fully healthy by that time. The offensive line could have some of the more interesting position battles on the team this summer.

4. NFL Nation TV returns. We're back with another edition of the "NFL Nation TV" Spreecast live video chat Tuesday afternoon on ESPN.com. Make sure to take a long lunch break and stop back by at 1 p.m. ET where we'll be hosting another one of our interactive video chats, featuring yours truly and ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez. We host "NFL Nation TV" each week at that time with a different guest. This Tuesday, we're welcoming Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure, who is at the NFL's spring meetings in Atlanta, and Rams reporter Nick Wagoner.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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